Pint (as he is affectionately known since he was about 3 years old) told me lots of stories. He told me about how he loves to walk out in nature, and he walked from Unalakleet to Shaktoolik and even from the village of Koyuk to Unalakleet (50+ miles).
He told me how he loved to go out fishing, and how he loves the subsistence lifestyle and hunting. He taught me that there are different fish in different seasons– first in the Spring there’s the King Salmon run, then there’s the Rainbow Salmon, and then the Red Sockeye Salmon run, and then later in the end of Summer-Fall season is the Silver Salmon run–which is his favorite, because they “put up a good fight.”
He told me that there is a river that comes in to Shaktoolik, and in the winter the sea ice and the mouth of the river are frozen, but as you go up the river, the current is stronger and the ice is thinner, and doesn’t always freeze. One winter he wanted to go hike up the river and he took his ice poker pole with him, and his backpack strapped to his back. He used the poker to test the ice before he walked foreward. Then all of a sudden the poker went through the ice and he followed the poker down into the freezing cold waters. He knew he had to get out immediately. He used his poker as a pole to brace across the ice and pulled himself out. The wind was blowing strong that day, and he was wet and freezing cold. He thought of taking off his wet clothes and wringing out his socks and wet clothes, but he said frozen clothes–especially socks–are hard to get back on. And then you would be in trouble. So instead, he kept going in his frozen wet clothes and boots. He walked for 10 miles back home. He couldn’t feel his feet, and by the time he made it through his door, he was “frozen stiff.” Luckily, he had forgotten his thermos filled with hot tea at home, and it was sitting, waiting for him on the table. He drank hot tea, changed into dry, warm clothes and was grateful to be alive.
He told me how when his daughter was born, every one called her “Quarter-Pint” and then as she got bigger, they called her “Half-Pint.” He smiled as he told me, now she’s bigger than me–she’s more like a “Pint And a Half.” 🙂
He told me how he loved to sit and watch the winter storms. Storms so whited out, that you can’t even see your hand in front of your face.
I sat and told him stories of Papua New Guinea (PNG), of how we used to walk in the jungle. Of the night when our motor broke down on the river, and it was pitch black. So we got out to feel our way and walk the riverbed trail. Of how the darkness was so black and thick, we couldn’t even see our hand in front of our face. And we slowly felt our way down the jungle trail. Of how finally, when our eyes adjusted to the darkness, we saw the whole jungle floor was alive with a glowing green light–that a phosphorescent fungus was lighting up the jungle floor, like a miniature city of light.
Of how often we had no electricity–just a kerosene lantern, and we would sit around the table and talk. And tell stories. And sometimes there was a storm blowing in with wild lighting and we pretended it was fireworks. Or watched the full moon rise over the river. There was no entertainment or city life. And it was enough.
He said he is glad the sunlight is coming back now, and how much life it brings. I told him I never realized how much the Earth tilted on its axis, because in PNG the days were always equally long–about from 6am to 6pm all year long.
We talked about hunting and gathering and how the people who know how to live off the land are so far ahead, and have so much knowledge and wisdom. And what if we overuse the Earth’s resources–what would we do if electricity didn’t come out of the walls, and food didn’t come off the grocery store shelves and water didn’t come out of the faucet? If the ways we know collapsed–then the societies that live off the land are the way of the future.
*Names and details have been changed to protect privacy of people. They also said they don’t mind if I share some of their stories, and are happy to share. 🙂